When the pandemic first hit students, teachers, and parents alike scrambled for the first available device and software and began using it for teaching. But there are better ways to teach online courses than a mere Whatsapp or Zoom call or even Skype.
BYN decided to take a look at the various ways in which online learning is possible – how online teaching works.
Defining the Scope
Anything you learn on the internet is online learning. Period. That’s what online learning means. Dig deeper though, and you’ll realize that you can learn online with or without a teacher by reading articles, papers, and Ebooks, watching video or listening to audio. From that perspective we may say that online learning happens when the learner is stationery at one location but the resources he uses are at diverse locations around the globe. Online learning may also occur over a video call with both the teacher and student being present in real time. Online blackboards and LMS (Learning Management Systems) are the latest tools that allow tutors to teach in much the same way as in a classroom.
In this article we will consider the different ways a teacher can teach – and a student can learn – online.
Who can teach online?
Unlike traditional teaching, online teaching is much more flexible – as is online learning. For instance, you may be a subject matter expert in a single subject or industry and teach or train only those hoping to learn that particular subject. Or you may sign up with an institution that conducts online courses. In theory you do not need any particular qualification to teach online – that said there’s a reason people invest money in studying B.Ed. (Bachelors of Education) – because it teaches much more than how to stand before a class of 50 odd students and speak – explain – textual content. And then there are specializations like ECCE and SEN to consider.
Worth mentioning here is also the fact the online learning for school children is not the same as online courses for higher studies, vocational courses, or skill development courses. In case of school children – particularly elementary and high school up to grade 7 or 8 – a completely online model may not work for obvious reasons. For these children there is what is called Blended Learning – which is a mix of online and offline learning.
How does online teaching work?
Given that online teaching happens on the internet, you can use just about any software that allows you to connect with your student for teaching – and you can choose one that you are familiar with. But that may limit your student base to those who are comfortable learning through that channel, platform, or model. If you really want to expand your student base, you should be flexible and capable of adapting to the students’ comfort using the channel he chooses.
From a student perspective, you can choose how you want to learn based on your current status and circumstances. Even before the pandemic, platforms like ByJus and Eduonix were being leveraged and after the pandemic hit, there has been an outcrop of both free and paid online courses in cyberspace.
The simplest method of teaching online is to simply get on a video call with the student using a software like Whatsapp, Skype, or Zoom and continue teaching in the same way you always did – using pen and paper. Or so it seems. As a teacher, you’ll find yourself repeatedly switching windows to focus on one student or the other. Signals cross and connectivity squeaks. Whatsapp is essentially a messaging app with the added functionality of audio and video calling. These apps are not built for interactive sessions with a bunch of bubbly teens or young adults who are so full of questions and queries that they can’t wait even for their own question to be answered – let alone waiting for others.
In this model the teacher uploads video in which he explains sections of the curriculum. The students watch the video at their convenience and take notes. They then come back with any questions or clarifications they may need. YouTube is the most popular and preferred deployment channel but if you create your own channel, you need to know how to set it up for payment and deployment. Signing up with a tutoring site like Udemy or Teachable may seem costly but you’ll get the tech support you need.
This deployment model is best suited for students who are self-motivated. As a student you will have to watch the video – perhaps multiple times – to grasp the lesson. You may also take notes and list your doubts and queries to ask later – during an F2F or via email or other channel.
Video uploads may work on a subscription in which case you lose access once you discontinue your subscription. Or it may be a pay per video or pay per set model where upon payment of a fee one or more videos are released for download. Another popular format is the module+PCP where once you pay for and complete one module – set of videos – you get to interact with the tutor – and even take an assessment.
Some start-ups offer a platform for teachers to teach online. These sites provide shared administrative support to teachers such as collection of the fees, sourcing and maintaining the software and so on. The course fees are split between the platform owners and the tutor.
Lessons on a tutoring platform are usually real time sessions with the student and tutor both being present during the session – that is to say they are conducted live. Chegg tutors for instance helps high school students and undergraduates offering assignment help along with solutions for textbook questions. Chegg also offers reference books on rent which means you do not need to invest in expensive texts.
Learning Management Systems
An LMS is an online portal that facilitates teaching in much the same way as a classroom. There is a “whiteboard” on which the teacher can “write” to explain in the same way she would in a classroom. There is also a video connection so that teacher and student can see one another. Most LMSs offer the following functionalities –
- Advance course creation
- Question Banks
- Performance tracking
- Advance assessment creation
- Session recording and downloading
- Asynchronous learning – teacher and student need not necessarily be online at the same time.
- Media sharing – sharing of video, audio, and other media.
LMS may be cloud based, open-source, or proprietary. While organizations may invest in proprietary LMS for training, open sources options like MOOC are good enough for students, as are shared LMS on cloud which are paid but cheaper than the proprietary version.
A point of note in case of LMS is that although teaching is easier it is up to the student to gather the resources such as reading material.
LMS platforms charge for their services. The cost may be borne by the teacher, the student, or both.
These then are the broad deployment models for online teaching and learning. If you want to get the best out of your online learning program here are some pointers.